Thursday, August 6, 2020

A Story of God's Amazing Love and Grace

How do you put into words a story that is so meaningful, so precious? Where we very clearly sensed God leading us step by step? Here is our attempt to share our story of how God led us from 48 years of full-time ministry to our recent retirement to Staff Emeritus. 

The following is taken from a letter that we sent our team of about 140 financial supporters last month. We wanted to share our hearts of thanks to them for making it possible for us to serve with Cru for the past 29 years, and now, we want to also share it with all the other dear friends and family in our lives, who have also been a part of these past years through your friendship and your prayers.

A Story of God's Amazing Love and Grace

One year ago at the beginning of June 2019, the plans on our hearts were to continue on as full-time staff indefinitely. Though we were approaching significant birthdays (75 for Gary, 70 for Cherry) in 2019, we still had the desire and passion to continue on as staff. After all, the founders of Cru, Bill & Vonette Bright, continued on through their 80's and to the time of their transition to heaven!

However, quite unexpectedly God led us to change these plans. Over Gary's 75th birthday in June 2019, we reserved a few days away at a beautiful little private retreat center just a 45 minute drive from our home. While there we were blessed with a few refreshing days of quiet connection as a couple, and also as we spent uninterrupted time reading and being renewed in God's Word, and in connection with Him. Also through some sweet conversations over the delicious meals that our hosts prepared and served to us, some new thoughts quite unexpectedly came to us regarding our future. It was like a lightbulb turned on ...

Is it possible that God would clearly show us when it is time for us to retire, just as He very clearly led us to join Cru staff years ago?

This was a new thought to us, and we left the retreat center with the idea that we would watch for that time to come in the future. But, also quite unexpectedly again, over the next 5-7 days, we both individually, and together as a couple, were drawn over and over to multiple verses and thoughts from Scripture that led us both to clearly see that yes, God was clearly showing us to begin to make plans for living a quiet life. (I Thess. 4:11, Psalm 46:10, and more) There was no doubt in our minds that this is what we were to do. Just as there had been no doubt in our minds back in 1991 that we were to make the big change from church planting to join the staff of Cru's High School ministry.

We were very amazed and full of thanks to God!

For though we had the passion to continue on, our energy level was (is) not the same as back in 1991 when we joined staff, and we were really longing for a quieter life, more time to focus on our growing family, and also on some personal projects including writing and sharing our stories of God's faithfulness over the years.

There were, however, several things that we felt needed to be in place before we could transition out of leading Cru High in our Omaha area.

First, of course, was that there would be a replacement for Gary as the Director (or Team Leader) of Cru Omaha. 

Quite amazingly, at the same time last June while we were at the retreat center, our fellow staff person, Jake Loftis, was in Colorado receiving his training to take over as Team Leader in Gary's place! The plans were already in place last summer that we would at some point switch roles with him, and he would be the Team leader for Cru Omaha, while we would both continue on for multiple years to be team members with him.

God had already provided a new Team Leader!

It was difficult for us to share our hearts with Jake & Chelsea at Staff Conference in Colorado that next month of July in 2019, that God was, in fact, leading us to transition off of staff in the near future. The main reason it was so difficult for us to share this news, was that we did not want to leave Jake without other team members. For though we have 20+ very amazing volunteers working with us, we felt that Jake should have some other full-time staff for the Cru Omaha team. We had been actively pursuing every opportunity we had to find more individuals to come on staff to be part of our Cru Omaha team, and had also been asking our national leaders for more staff members to be sent to Omaha for our team. But nothing had materialized.

However, in God's great faithfulness and love, there was already a plan in place.

For during the school year 2019-2020, God was already at work in providing for this need! Jake is the first one who come in contact with Daniel. Daniel was already on part-time staff with Cru on the UNL college campus. He had made the decision to join staff full-time upon his graduation this past December. But after learning of the high school team here, he made the decision to work with Jake on our Cru Omaha team! Isn't this just amazing? This summer as we have transitioned off of full-time staff to Staff Emeritus, Daniel will be raising his financial support to be full-time staff here on our Cru Omaha team, together with Jake! God is so good!

As you can see, we are so very thankful and excited for what God has done, and for what He has ahead for Cru Omaha! 

We continued on in our July Newsletter that we sent to our financial supporters, letting them know of ways they can keep on with designating their future gifts towards Cru Omaha. One of three ways to continue on supporting Cru Omaha (if they feel God leading them to do so), is to transition their gifts to Daniel! And, if any of you reading this post here, wish to do so, as well ... please contact us. But most of all, we would love for you to pray for the next season of leading middle school and high school students in the Omaha area to know Jesus! This is definitely a unique time in history ... please pray for many students to find a deep relationship with Jesus during these troubling times.